PETALING JAYA: Renowned social critic Chandra Muzaffar says the latest redelineation of electoral boundaries passed by the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday is not surprising, adding that such an exercise has been done many times in the past to favour Barisan Nasional (BN).
“Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad did the same thing in 2003, he went on the basis of Barisan Nasional’s performance in 1999 after they lost some Malay support after Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking as deputy prime minister,” said Chandra, who now heads the 1Malaysia Foundation.
He said in the past, electoral boundaries were redrawn to dilute Malay constituencies, to counter anti-government sentiments among Malay voters in the wake of the reformasi movement sparked by Anwar’s dismissal.
“He (Mahathir) was doing the reverse of what’s happening now, but also for the same purpose, power.”
On Wednesday, the Dewan Rakyat passed a motion on the redelineation of electoral boundaries, amid strong protests from opposition MPs who accuse the Election Commission (EC) of working in cohorts with BN to ensure the coalition’s victory at the next polls.
Mahathir, who now chairs opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan, has also slammed the redelineation report, saying it was unfair.
Yesterday, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the redelineation would create more racial enclaves to divide and turn Malaysians against each other.
Chandra agreed that the latest redelineation, which drew strong protests from the opposition, was to ensure BN’s grip on power.
But he said although the new electoral map would see greater concentrations of certain communities in some seats, he did not think race was the main motivation.
“I don’t believe that the ethnic factor is the main consideration, rather I believe it is to ensure that the ruling coalition can perpetuate its power. I think this is the real consideration,” he told FMT.
“Some constituencies may have had 55% of voters of one race, and 45% of another race. Now, this ratio may be 75% from one community and 25% of another community.”
Chandra however warned that the redelineation could lead to candidates resorting to ethnic sentiments in seats dominated by certain races.
He said the latest episode showed the importance of the EC to be an independent body which is detached from those in power.
“The Election Commission should have and must adhere to the guiding principles on constituency redelineation in the Federal Constitution.
“The guiding principles in the constitution are clear, they are related to things like geography, topography, and demographics, but the principles do not encourage ethnic voting. When it speaks to the interests of a community, it isn’t a reference to any ethnic community.”
He said those behind the drafting of the constitution had not emphasised ethnicity so that Malaysians would not identify themselves based on race.